You can't blame Eddie Jordan for this win. He did just about everything humanly possible to give the game away, the Nuggets just simply ran out of gas in their last-ditch effort to take what was rightfully theirs. Sixers 108, Nuggets (minus Melo, Chauncey and Bird Man) 105. Wrap after the jump.
Before we get into the rotation chart and all that jazz, I'd like to point something out about this game. Jrue Holiday played a total of 11 minutes. In those 11 minutes, the Sixers allowed 15 points and scored 32. In the 37 minutes Jrue Holiday was not on the floor, the Sixers allowed 90 points and scored 76. The math breaks down like this:
- The Sixers scored 2.91 points per minute
- The Sixers allowed 1.36 points per minute
- The Sixers scored 2.05 points per minute
- The Sixers allowed 2.43 points per minute
Typically, on/off statistics need to be viewed with some doubt, especially when you're talking about a small sample size. Tonight's game is the exception. The Sixers won this game, in large part, because of the defense Jrue Holiday played on Ty Lawson and Anthony Carter, plus the way he, a 19-year-old rookie, orchestrated the offense. Lou Williams was atrocious defensively tonight. He should be ashamed of himself. Willie Green was marginally better, let's call his defensive performance merely disgusting. As soon as Jrue was removed from the game, it was a foregone conclusion that the Nuggets would go on a massive run, the only question was whether there was enough time for Denver to come back from 13 down. The answer was no.
Since I just mentioned Holiday and Lawson in the same sentence, I may as well revisit the draft-night decision one more time. Instead of preaching to you, or re-stating my case, all I want to do is ask one simple question. When you look at this roster as a whole, which is a more pressing need: A point guard who can penetrate or a point guard who can stop penetration? That may be oversimplifying matters to a degree, but when you get right down to it, it's the key question. Which skill set is redundant, which skill set is glaring weakness?
Here's your rotation chart, a few more notes below:
Jrue isn't the only one you can credit this win to, Rodney Carney (who was inexplicably benched against the Clippers) hit some big shots and defended. Jason Smith made a surprise appearance from the end of the bench and provided 7 points in 8 minutes. Elton Brand continued is excellent play, and even logged starter's minutes thanks to Sam Dalembert's foul trouble. (Check out where Brand ranks among PFs in PER, after his horrendous start). Allen Iverson's offense nearly made up for his defense in this one, as well. And most of all, we should thank the Denver Nuggets for missing 12 of their 29 free throws and turning the ball over 19 times, mostly they turned the ball over unprovoked. We couldn't have done it without you guys.
Notably absent from the "contributors" column were Thad Young (again) and Andre Iguodala who had a key turnover late, as well as splitting two pairs of free throws that could've iced the game. Willie split a pair of free throws as well, and could've actually cost the Sixers the game had Iguodala not lucked into an offensive board that hit the floor.
If you aren't convinced Eddie Jordan is a bumbling idiot yet, let me draw your attention to one sequence of events. With 15 seconds remaining and the Sixers leading by 2, Andre Iguodala was fouled, sending him to the line and stopping play. The lineup the Sixers had on the floor at the time was Allen Iverson, Willie Green, Andre Iguodala, Marreese Speights and Elton Brand. Iguodala hit the first shot and missed the second, with Ty Lawson grabbing the rebound. Let's freeze the game right there and see what's on the floor.
Lawson has the ball with Kenyon Martin, Nene, JR Smith and Aaron Afflalo on the floor with him and 15 seconds left on the clock. If George Karl doesn't call a timeout, the Sixers will have Willie Green on the ball, Allen Iverson on JR Smith, Andre Iguodala on Aaron Afflalo, Marreese Speights on Kenyon Martin and Elton Brand on Nene. In other words, mismatch, gross mismatch, good matchup, mismatch, size mismatch.
Jordan should've used the whistle to get his defensive substitutions in during the timeout. He got bailed out, luckily, by either George Karl or the rookie point guard who didn't realize which players were on the floor for Philly. The smart play for Denver in that situation is to push the ball up the floor and convert what would've surely been an easy opportunity to either tie the game or draw within one point. Instead, Lawson called the timeout.
So now Jordan gets a do-over. This is the lineup he decides to go with:
- Green on Lawson (terrible mismatch)
- Carney on Smith (fine)
- Iguodala on Afflalo (fine)
- Jason Smith on Kenyon Martin (speed and strength mismatch)
- Brand on Nene (size mismatch)
Forget about the mismatches for a second and think about what's happened in the game to this point. Ty Lawson has proven he can beat every single Sixer off the dribble except Jrue Holiday. Holiday stuck with him on one drive and stuffed his shot, rode him so hard to the baseline another time that Lawson wound up in the first row of seats after making a desperation pass, the rest of the time Jrue was on him, he didn't even bother trying to get into the lane. Yet Jordan chose Willie Green as his "defensive stopper," wouldn't Bob Cooney be proud. Needless to say, Lawson got the ball, drove straight to the hole and hit a layup, on what should've really been a three-point play, considering Jason Smith hacked him.
This exact same scenario came up about 11 seconds late on the game clock. Jordan made the same folly in not making the substitutions during the free throws (twice, first Green shot, then Iguodala). Again, Denver called a time out, though they had no choice this time, considering the time left on the clock. This time, Jordan went with the following matchups:
- Green on Lawson (again)
- Jrue on Afflalo (luckily, this is where the ball wound up and Jrue contested the three, forcing a miss)
- Carney on J.R. Smith
- Iguodala on Kenyon Martin (I have no idea why)
- Jason Smith on Nene (which was immaterial)
Now here's my question to you. Wouldn't the worst AAU coach in the country know to get Jrue on Lawson, Carney on Afflalo and Iguodala on Smith for both of those possessions? I can't figure out if it's that Jordan simply doesn't care about defense or that he's just the dumbest coach I've ever seen. There's no middle ground here, it has to be one or the other.
Player of The Game: I'm giving it to Brand and Jrue. Brand's offensive numbers were impressive (7/11 for 16 points), but his defensive numbers were even better. 7 defensive boards, 3 blocks and really some top-notch post defense on Nene on a couple of key possessions. Jrue only shot 1/3 from the floor, grabbed 3 boards, handed out 3 assists, blocked 1 shot, completely disrupted everything Denver was trying to do on offense and ran sensible offensive sets that resulted in open looks for his teammates time and time again. My favorite play of the night was a pick-and-pop he ran with brand on the left elbow. He ran his man right into the solid screen sent by Brand, drew both defenders with him down the lane, then hit Brand with a perfect pass in the chest at the foul line. When the wing defender collapsed on Brand, he dished to a wide-open Carney on the wing for an open three that Carney drained. You couldn't draw it up any better than that.
Team Record: 10-23
Up Next: Aaron Burr and company, on Tuesday at the Wach.
Back when this road trip began I said if the Sixers finish 3-3 we're collectively screwed. Well, we're screwed. This franchise, from Stefanski on down, is desperately clinging to hollow wins like life preservers, no matter how high the mountain of evidence against Eddie Jordan piles. For the record, even with the exemplary effort (mostly by bench warmers in Eddie Jordan's mind) the Sixers still performed pretty pitifully on the defensive side of the ball. They allowed the Denver Nuggets without their two best offensive players, by a large margin, to compile a 109.23 offensive efficiency rating. In other words, this Nuggets group performed to the level of the 9th-best offensive team in the league.
Wins like this don't warm the heart. They don't show developing harmony and effort, nor do they show the team is learning how to close out games. Wins like this do nothing but distract from the tremendous problems this team has, namely, its head coach. As far as I'm concerned, all three of the wins on this trip fall into that category.